“Merry Christmas, Sriram Raghavan’s Love For European Cinema Shines Through” – A Subhash K Jha Review

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Merry Christmas

Starring Katrina Kaif, Vijay Sethupathi

Directed by Sriram Raghavan

Yadhoom is the home-made whiskey that Albert’s uncle, played by Tinu Anand , recommends as the spirit of the season: create your own yadhoom and have a good time in life.

This is what Sriram Raghavan does. His yadhoom may not match with yours. But heck, life is what you make of it. Merry Christmas is not a merry film. Come to think of it, it is not even Christmassy. Albert (Vijay Sethupathi) and Maria (Katrina Kaif) are two wistful souls who collide on Christmas eve in neon-lit Bombay (this is when Mumbai was Bombay) in the 1970s when , Rajesh Khanna, Shakti Samanta’s Aradhana and Kati Patang and R D Burman ruled the charts.

Sriram gives us that sense of old world connectivity between the couple which we thought died with Albert’s favourite film DDDL (Dil Diya Dard Liya). The music when retro (R. D. Burman’s ‘Jab andhera hota hai’ is part of the dishy sound design) is a trippy treat. But when Pritam Chakraborty steps in with fresh songs , a staleness seeps in the soundtrack.

The film embraces nostalgia and repudiates its clichés. Sriram dedicates Merry Christmas to filmmaker Shakti Samanta (who is a favourite of mine) and opens with a shot of Asha Parekh in Samanta’s Kati Patang screaming ‘Nahiiiiiin!’. Raghavan takes prideful inspiration from the ‘Nahiiin’ culture of damsels in distress in our cinema.

Sriram Raghavan’s bitter-sweet homage to Mumbai in the 1970s is scattered with nostalgic references. But the emphasis is on the here and the now. Sethupathi and Kaif infuse the festive mood of Christmas with a piercing yearning. Sethupathi, is as usual, rock-solid. Without a word he can convey an ocean and emotions.

But it is Katrina Kaif who surprises you with a mature performance of a woman with a past who wants to gift her daughter with a present. The supporting cast is effective though not exceptional. Radhika Apte as Albert’s girlfriend from the past does nothing she hasn’t already done.This is where Katrina scores.

Merry Christmas is based on Frédéric Dard’s French novel Le Monte-charge. Sriram’s Adhadhun was also based on a French short-film. Maybe it’s time for Sriram to stop looking at European cinema for inspiration.There is plenty right here to choose from.

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